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Home births on the rise in Goulburn Valley

By Kyabram Free Press

MORE pregnant Goulburn Valley women are opting to give birth at home instead of the hospital amid COVID-19 uncertainty.

My Midwives Shepparton and Echuca director Andrea Quanchi said the number of local clients seeking home births had risen to equal those choosing hospital births.

‘‘There’s definitely been an increase, it’s 50-50 at the moment,’’ she said.

‘‘Interest in home births has risen every time COVID-19 restrictions have changed, and more and more people are looking for other options, because the world doesn’t feel safe.’’

Mrs Quanchi said restricted visiting hours at hospitals had played a big role in women altering their plans.

‘‘These restrictions are understandable, as we need to protect our workforce,’’ she said.

‘‘But women don’t know whether they will be able to have their family around them for the birth.

‘‘Whereas birthing from home, they can have whomever they want, as long as they are following social distancing restrictions.’’

After deciding to give birth to her first child, Xavier, at home 11 years ago, former Kyabram resident Katie Keys said she had never looked back.

Now a mother of four, Ms Keys said My Midwives offered a consistency regular hospitals could not provide.

“I was not happy at that time with the general hospital system and their outlook on pregnancy and birth and care. I wanted the continuity of care,” she said.

“I wanted to be with one person who looked after me the whole way through and who I knew was going to be there on the day that I had my baby and that I had a trusted relationship with.

“I’ve had the same midwife at all four births and my last two I had a local woman who looked after me and shared the care during my pregnancy. Both ladies I have developed a relationship with and trust implicitly.”

Opting for a home birth through My Midwives doesn’t come cheap — the average cost is $6000, with some rebates available through Medicare.

However, Mrs Quanchi highlighted this covered 10 months of care before the birth, six weeks of care after, and the cost of two midwives during the birth.

‘‘So when you break it all down, it’s not that much,’’ she said.

Ms Quanchi said there wasn’t a shortage of midwifery services in Shepparton — more a lack of awareness of alternative delivery and care options.

‘‘I guarantee in Shepparton, 99 per cent of women wouldn’t know they can birth at home,’’ she said.

As for those nervous about the risks of home birthing, Mrs Quanchi said her team had worked hard to build a close relationship with GV Health.

‘‘This means if we do need to transfer women to hospital, there’s no angst around that,’’ she said.

‘‘But that’s not supported by evidence.’’

Ms Keys said while she hadn't personally encountered any stigma towards her choice, she fielded many questions about the process.

“I got a massive amount of pushback from my original doctor and what I would call a mouthful about how dangerous it was and how uneducated I was,” she said.

“I always get lots of questions because people don’t understand the process. They think of homebirth and they picture me just dropping a baby in my bathroom with no care or no back-up plan or nothing prepared. That’s not what it’s about.”

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